Sunday, April 9, 2017

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- April 2017

Another baseball season is in its infancy and as the new campaign commences, it is time to look at the top 30 kids in the Red Sox system.  Spring training performances and assignments have made some changes to our pre season rankings. Each player is listed with their Opening Day assignment, and in { } is their pre season ranking.

1. Andrew Benintendi, LF Boston {1}.  As expected Benintendi was the Opening Day starting left fielder for Boston, batting second in the potent lineup. Benny Baseball celebrated by capping a Sox win with a three run home run.  During April, Benintendi will go over 130 major league at bats and will lose his prospect status. As Andrew leaves this list, he will rocket to the top of the list of AL Rookie of the Year candidates.

2. Rafael Devers, 3B Portland {2}. Devers is poised to move to the number one spot in our May rankings.  He has something else in common with Andrew Benintendi, which was an Opening Day home run.  In his first AA at bat, Devers cracked a 400+ foot home run to right field at Hadlock Field. Unless Rafael destroys AA, he may well spend all of 2017 in Maine since he is only 20.  But do not bet against Devers torching the Eastern League pitching and forcing Boston's hand.

3. Jay Groome, LHP Greenville{3}. Like Boston has done with other highly regarded teenagers in recent years, the Red Sox assigned Groome to Greenville. At age 18, last year's first round pick, is skipping Lowell and going to a full season club.  Groome is expected to have each start capped at five innings to protect the young arm.  But a number of baseball people around the game feel with his explosive fastball and plus-plus curveball, Groome could flash through the minor leagues and be big league ready sooner than his age would indicate.

4. Sam Travis, 1B Pawtucket {4}. For the second year in a row, Travis excelled for the big club in the exhibition games. His goal for 2017 is to stay healthy and pile up some AAA at bats that were lost after a knee injury ended 2016 in late May. Travis' defensive work around the bag could also use some AAA reps.  By mid season Travis could force his way into the picture in Boston.

5. Bobby Dalbec, 3B Greenville {6}. This power hitting third sacker, along with Jay Groome, could make the 2016 draft one to remember.  Dalbec continued to show his power during the spring games.  Dalbec seemed to perform well enough to be pushed up to High A Salem.  But as mentioned in our pre season rankings, 2014 draftee Michael Chavis also was ticketed for Salem, so to get playing time for both, Dalbec goes to Greenville. But if Dalbec repeats his Lowell numbers from '16, he will make room for himself in Salem.

6. Marco Hernandez, INF Pawtucket {8}.  Marco had one of the best springs of anyone in the entire Red Sox camp.  At only age 24, Hernandez has not only made himself a definite top prospect, but has established himself as someone whose future includes a full time big league job.  In fact Hernandez ended up in Boston and in the lineup during the season's first week when Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts went on a brief bereavement leave. Ironically the current position considered the biggest question mark for Boston is third base.  Hernandez is the third of our top six prospects who could be a big league third baseman in the future.  In fact, Hernandez, depending on circumstances, could play a lot of third for Boston this year.

7. Josh Ockimey, 1B Salem {7}. Ockimey climbs another rung on the Red Sox ladder up to High A Salem. At age 21, this power hitter needs to put up consistent numbers throughout 2017.  Ockimey pounded the South Atlantic League in early 2016, but tailed off badly in the latter half. If Ockimey can put up an entire season of power hitting, he is one of the guys whose ascension could deepen the somewhat depleted top of the Sox system.

8. Brian Johnson, LHP Pawtucket {5}. Boston began spring training with six big league starting pitchers: Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright, and Drew Pomeranz.  Three younger lefties were considered the depth in spots seven to nine: Henry Owens, Roenis Elias, and Johnson. Things changed while in Florida, Price is hurt and Pomeranz was set back due to some arm issues (although he is scheduled to pitch in April).  Elias was also hurt and Owens pitched so abysmally his future in Boston is a big question.  Veteran big leaguer, Kyle Kendrick came to camp on a AAA contract and pitched very well.  Kendrick is now likely the " number 6" starter. That leaves Brian Johnson.  Brian also pitched not as well as hoped in Florida, but better than Owens.  Johnson very much needs to begin his AAA season with a string of impressive outings to solidify his chance to pitch for Boston when needed this year. The Red Sox need this and Johnson needs this type of beginning in order to salvage what seemed like a certain long big league career just two years ago.

9. Roniel Raudes, RHP Salem {10}. Roniel has reached High A Salem at age 19.  Raudes has compiled impressive numbers in his career despite not having high octane stuff. Raudes has outstanding command and his game is predicated on that ability.

10. Nick Longhi, 1B Portland {11}. The second Sea Dog on this list, Longhi along with his corner infield mate, Devers, will be two of the must see guys at Hadlock this year.  To show the balance of the upper end of this list, not only are there two Sea Dogs, but counting Marco Hernandez' time in Boston this week, there are two each from Boston, Pawtucket, Salem, and Greenville also.

11. Michael Chavis,  3B Salem  {9}. Chavis reached Salem for the first time late in 2016.  In 25 at bats, Chavis hit only .160 without an extra base hit. So Chavis will go back to Salem to begin 2017, likely for the full season.  As mentioned above, Chavis may well have Bobby Dalbec breathing down his neck (not to mention Rafael Devers ahead of him in Portland).  Due to this organizational squeeze at third base it would behoove Chavis to begin to hit and hit for power as was his reputation when drafted in the first round in 2014.

12. Travis Lakins, RHP Salem {13}. A year ago Boston aggressively pushed Lakins to Salem after pitching only two innings at Lowell in 2015, the same year he was drafted from Ohio State.  In 2016 Lakins started strong at Salem but tailed off badly.  This year despite speculation Lakins would begin at Portland, the Sox pulled back on the reins and re-assigned Lakins to Salem again.  A good solid encore with the Salem Red Sox could lead Lakins to Maine very soon.

13. CJ Chatham, SS, XST {12}.  Another 2016 draftee, the second rounder was assigned to Greenville, but a late spring injury has CJ still at extended spring training for now.  Chatham is expected to join the Drive soon.

14. Robby Scott, LHP Boston {20}. This lefty's stock seemingly continues to rise in Boston. Scott made the big club out of camp.  His role was expected to be a third lefty, and maybe with a return trip to Pawtucket when some other injured players return.  But in the early games,  more than once, John Farrell has brought Scott into the 8th inning of close games. Meanwhile another lefty, veteran Fernando Abad has not appeared in a game and Robbie Ross, Jr. has been on the DL with the flu. Scott apparently has a chance to solidify his spot in the Boston bullpen.

15. Ben Taylor, RHP Boston {40}. Who the hell is Ben Taylor? Well, we here at RSM didn't miss Ben entirely having him down near the end of our honorable mention list for our pre-season rankings, but that was about it. Who the hell is Ben Taylor? The Sox drafted Taylor in the 7th round of the 2015 draft.  Under the current draft rules and dollar amounts assigned to the top ten rounds, it has become customary in rounds five through ten or so to draft college seniors and offer them $10,000. to sign. This is to save some money to overspend for other picks.  Taylor was a senior at South Alabama, and he signed for the $10,000.  Ben split 2015 between Lowell and Greenville with 54 strikeouts in 55 innings.  The 6'3', 240 pound righty reached Portland by the end of 2016.  His fastball reaches the mid 90's, especially when pitching short outings from the pen. Taylor also was expected to spend a week in Boston and go back to AAA after other pitchers get healthy.  But Taylor, over two appearances, struck out the first three batters he faced in the big leagues: Ian Kinsler, Miguel Carbrera, and Victor Martinez! Taylor may or may not see AAA in the days and weeks to come.

16. Trey Ball, LHP Portland {14}. A torrent of words have been written and spoken about Trey Ball since he was drafted seventh overall in the 2013 draft.  To be brief, Ball has failed to live up to that spot in the draft.  But Ball has reached AA Portland after two years at Salem. So often AA is the make or break level for many pitchers and hitters, Ball will likely join that long list.  Hopefully the Maine air will inflate Ball's career.

17. Shaun Anderson, RHP Greenville {17}.  The Red Sox will give the former Univ. of Florida closer every chance to be a starting pitcher.  Anderson is one of several college pitchers Boston grabbed in last June's draft.

18. Mike Shawaryn, RHP  Greenville {18}.  Shawaryn is another of those college hurlers drafted last June and he will join Anderson in the Grenville Drive rotation.  Either or both of Anderson or Shawaryn could push up to Salem before 2017 ends, with strong first halves for the Drive.

19. Chandler Shepherd, RHP  Pawtucket {16}. Shepherd was one of four minor league relief pitchers who shone in Boston's big league camp. Shepherd nearly made the big club, being edged out by Ben Taylor. If Shepherd continues with strong outings at Pawtucket, he is definitely in the mix to be called up to Boston during 2017.

20. Kyle Martin, RHP Pawtucket {15}. Martin will be a big part of the Paw Sox bullpen for a second season in a row. But during Boston's spring camp, Martin was outperformed by several other relievers including Taylor, Shepherd, and a couple of others coming up shortly on this list.  Martin could certainly restore his spot on the pecking order of possible recalls with a strong AAA season.

21. Jake Cosart, RHP Portland {22} The Sox moved Cosart to the bullpen full time in 2016.  He began the campaign at Greenville, and was a rousing success striking out 76 batters in 52.2 innings. His ERA for the Drive was 2.05, and Jake was promoted to Salem where he ended the year with an ERA of 1.00 in eight games with 28 more K's in 18 innings.  This cameo in Salem may end his class A career, as he will begin 2017 in Portland.  If Cosart can continue to harness his big fastball, the former college third baseman could be on a fast track to Boston.

22. Jamie Callahan, RHP Portland{38}. Another of the quartet of bullpen arms specifically praised by name by Sox skipper John Farrell.  Callahan stayed in Boston camp until the very end of spring training.  Callahan was drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft, but had a string of very pedestrian numbers never reaching AA.  Jamie will begin 2017 at Portland, and it will be of interest to see if Callahan can build on his strong spring camp of '17.

23. Austin Maddox, RHP Portland {39}. Maddox is the fourth and final bullpen arm who received Manager Farrell's praise and surprisingly stayed with Boston until the final cut.  As with Callahan, Maddox was drafted in 2012.  Maddox was taken in the third round after a two way career at the University of Florida.  The Sox put him in the bullpen right away. In 2016, Maddox pitched across three levels from Salem to Pawtucket.  Maddox began 2017 at Portland, but was called to Pawtucket in the first week.  This may be a temporary promotion due to the injuries and illnesses in Boston, but either way Maddox needs a big 2017 to solidify his standing in the Boston bullpen hierarchy.

24. Jalen Beeks, LHP Portland {24} This University of Arkansas product, caught a break during a Red Sox-Team USA exhibition game this spring.  Team USA was using Sox minor league pitchers to save their staff.  Beeks was one of the pitchers to go for Team USA. Roenis Elias was scheduled to start for Boston.  Elias was injured in pre game and Beeks was selected to start for Boston.  Jalen pitched two very effective innings catching everyone's eye.  Beeks, who reached AA last season and started 13 Sea Dogs games with an ERA of 4.68, will return to Portland with a hope to further improve his organizational standing.

25. Tate Matheny, OF Salem {21}. Matheny continues to climb up the Sox system reaching High A Salem. Opinion is split on how much of a major league prospect the son of the Cardinals manager is. A strong start at Salem could give the 23 year old right handed hitter a chance at AA before '17 is over.

26. Yankory Pimental, RHP Salem {19}. Pimental somewhat surprisingly has been sent back to Salem, where he pitched all of 2016. This assignment is the main reason for his seven spot tumble down our list. The 23 year old righty now has a number of other relief prospects ahead of him.  2017 will be a challenge to Pimental to get back in that mix of top bullpen candidates in the system.

27. Luis Ysla, LHP Portland {26} Ysla has also been sent back to the level where he pitched last year, except for one '16 game for Pawtucket.  But Ysla is on the 40 man roster and is a lefty arm, so he may yet factor into a major league bullpen.

28. Kyri Washington, OF Salem {25} After a power display at Greenville in 2016, Kyri brings his bat to High A Salem. If Washington could match the 16 homers from last season with an improvement on the .262 average, the future could be brightening for the 2015 23rd round draftee from little Longwood College.

29. Bryan Mata, RHP, XST {33}. The Red Sox signed this Venezuelan in January of 2016. At 6'3" 160 pounds much of Mata's ranking is based on projecting what his skill set will become when he fills out his frame.  Mata spend 2016 with the Red Sox Dominican Summer League team, and with Mata turning 18 in May, he could report to either the GCL team or possibly to Lowell in June.

30. Lorenzo Cedrola, OF Greenville {NR}. A newcomer to our RSM list. Cedrola turned 19 in January and after spending 2015 and 2016 in the DSL and GCL, respectively, was assigned to the Drive.  Cedrola's top asset is his blazing, top of the line speed. This speed also gives Lorenzo great range while playing center field.  But at 5'10', 155 there is not much pop in his offensive game as of yet. Cedrola is another product of Venezuela, signed in 2015.

Here are another dozen names that were under consideration for this list:

Yoan Aybar, OF Greenville
Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP Portland
Steve Nogosek, RHP Greenville
Austin Glorius, RHP Salem
Aneury Tavarez, OF Portland (after the rule 5 draftee was returned by Baltimore)
Tyler Hill, OF Greenville
Austin Rei, C Salem
Gerson Bautista, RHP Salem
Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP Greenville ( Darwinzon's middle name is David, go figure)
Danny Mars, OF Portland
Christopher Acosta, RHP XST
Marc Brakeman, RHP XST

And we will end with eight more ( to make an even 50 names). These eight include some names on their way out, some free agents or acquisitions from other organizations, and newly minted Sea Dog outfielder:

Joseph Monge, OF Portland
Josh Tobias, 2B Salem (acquired for Clay Buchholz)
Williams Jerez, KHP Portland
Edgar Olmos, LHP Pawtucket
Steve Selsky, OF Pawtucket-Boston
Noe Ramirez, RHP Pawtucket-Boston
Deven Marrero, SS Pawtucket-Boston
Bryce Brentz, OF Pawtucket (He cleared waivers to get back to Rhode Island)

As 2017 winds through its yet unknown path, a number of these names will move up and down the rankings. And even after presenting 50 names, it is very likely new names will join.

Welcome Back Baseball!

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